Jamie and I have been fans of Top Chef for a long time, and even though it's been several years since Chef Mike Isabella made his famous pepperoni sauce, we've never forgotten it. It's because of that memory that I was SO excited when I was given the opportunity to create and share a recipe featuring Hormel Pepperoni. This pepperoni sauce is so versatile, it can be used for lots of things, but I wanted to share it as a delicious filling for a chicken and pasta dish.
First things first, you need to make the pepperoni sauce.
I feel like pepperoni is underrated as an ingredient, and is useful as so much more than just a pizza topping! Hormel pepperoni is a favorite in our house, and the only brand we buy. It has just the right amount of spice that it isn't too much for Max, and it isn't too boring for Jamie and I. For us, it's perfect.
To start, sweat the onions and garlic for a bit, then add in the pepperoni slices. I used two packages of Hormel slices for this recipe.
It makes the most gorgeous colored sauce when you start cooking it down! Once the pepperoni has cooked down and is making your kitchen smell SO delicious, add in the crushed tomatoes, wine, spices, and broth. Let simmer for about 40 minutes.
When done simmering, don't forget to remove the bay leaf! Transfer the sauce to your blender and pulse a few times to break up the slices of pepperoni. If you over-blend it, it becomes more of a puréed spread, which is fine for some uses, but for this recipe, you'll want to leave it a little chunky. A few hits of the pulse button should do it for you. The sauce is done here, but keep reading for more on what to do with it!
- 2 T. olive oil
- ½ med. yellow onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, smashed
- 12 oz. Hormel Pepperoni slices
- 1 t. red pepper flakes
- 1 bay leaf
- 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes
- ¼ cup red wine
- 1¼ cup low-sodium chicken broth
- Salt to taste
- Sweat onions, garlic and olive oil, in large pan, 7 minutes
- Add pepperoni slices, cook 5 minutes
- Add pepper flakes (more to taste) and bay leaf, cook 1 minute
- Add can of tomatoes with juice, cook 5 minutes
- Add broth and red wine, reduce heat, simmer 40 minutes
- Transfer sauce to blender
- Pulse blend to remove large slices of pepperoni, but don't overblend
- Season to taste
Stuffed Chicken Breasts
I love pesto, and it's fantastic with pepperoni as well! For this dish, I rolled some of my favorite flavors into a chicken breast, and served it over pasta. I just used a store bought pesto, but you could use homemade too, if you're so inclined.
First, you need to flatten your chicken breasts to get more space for the filling. Lay it out on a sheet of plastic wrap, and fold the plastic over the chicken. Using a tenderizer or something similar (notice my cast iron pan) smack the chicken breast to flatten it out. Then you have a good surface to spread your fillings.
I did a thin layer of pesto first, then about a 1/2 cup of pepperoni sauce, then topped it with shredded mozzarella. Fold the sides of the chicken breast up (roll it if you can, but mine was more like a taco shell made of chicken) and place into a baking dish.
Bake at 350 until the chicken reaches an interior temp of 165. It was about 35 minutes for us, but may vary for you, depending on the thickness of your chicken and how close together they are in the pan.
While my chicken was in the oven, I fried up some mini pepperoni slices for garnish. It only took a couple of minutes in the skillet and they were done.
I only used about half the sauce made with this recipe, so we will be doing other things with it as well; it's great as a spread on grilled cheese, or use it to make your own mini pizzas, on English muffins or bagels, the possibilities are endless!